As part of a company’s human resources (HR) team, a benefits specialist manages compensation and benefits programs, and ensures compliance with federal and state laws. Incorporating a human resources administration minor into a bachelor’s degree program can provide the foundation for a career as a benefits specialist.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) anticipates rising employment in the coming years for the category of workers known as compensation, benefits and job analysis specialists. As companies face increased competition for qualified employees, and as employment laws and healthcare coverage options change, there should be continuing demand for benefits specialists.
Benefits Specialist Job Duties
Benefits specialists administer and manage a company’s employee benefits and retirement programs – an important part of overall compensation for employees. Job duties can include:
- Coordinating retirement, pension, profit-sharing and stock ownership plans
- Researching and analyzing healthcare plans, including medical, dental, vision and disability insurance
- Designing a comprehensive benefits package to meet the needs of a changing workforce
- Evaluating the costs and benefits of wellness programs, life and long-term care insurance, and employee assistance programs
- Evaluating job positions for classification, status and salary requirements
- Planning, developing, evaluating and communicating techniques for compensating employees
- Advising management on resolving benefits issues
- Building and maintaining relationships with health and retirement plan providers
- Assisting employees by explaining benefits and appealing decisions made by insurance companies
- Reviewing vendor invoices, resolving disputes, and reporting on fees and costs
The average annual salary for compensation, benefits and job analysis specialists was $63,310 as of May 2013, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Yearly salaries for the highest 10% of earners exceeded $94,080.
Like employment opportunities, potential salary ranges are determined by a variety of factors, such as a candidate’s work experience and level of educational attainment, as well as regional market conditions.
Education and Training
The journey to a career as a benefits specialist can begin with enrolling in a bachelor’s degree program in business administration, applied psychology with a concentration in organizational psychology or a related field with a minor in human resources administration. HR coursework typically includes compensation and benefits, organizational behavior and development, management of human resources, and administrative and personnel law.
Graduates of a human resources administration program should be able to:
- Apply organizational training theory, methodology and evaluation to real-world business situations
- Understand the legal issues relating to wages, pay equity and benefits
- Comprehend the forces shaping current and future training and development practices
Benefits specialists who secure an entry-level position with a bachelor’s degree may be eligible for employer-provided tuition assistance in order to further their education.
Could a Benefits Specialist Career Be the Right Choice for You?
Typical attributes for effective benefits specialists include excellent written and verbal communication skills, attention to detail, strong interpersonal skills, and the ability to think rationally and analytically. Together with general business knowledge, a strong foundation in human resources can help prepare individuals to thrive in a benefits specialist career.